Little Lick Creek Watershed

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Impacted Waters

Land that drains into Little Lick Creek is known as its watershed. The Little Lick Creek watershed includes areas east of the city limits between U.S. Highway 70 and Falls Lake. N.C. Highway 98 and U.S. Highway 70 are prominent features of this watershed.

Water from Little Lick Creek flows into Falls Lake and follows the Neuse River into the Albemarle-Pamlico Sound before emptying into the ocean.

Little Lick Creek flows into Falls Lake, the Neuse River, and then the Atlantic Ocean

Get Involved

There are many ways for you to help protect the health of Little Lick Creek.  You can adopt a drain or participate with  NC Stream Watch. There are also two major stream clean-ups each year.  Big Sweep is the 1st weekend in October and Creek Week is the third week in March. Email the public education coordinator for details.

You can also join some of the many groups dedicated to protecting the health of our rivers and streams. Sound Rivers is active in this watershed.

Stormwater Services encourages neighbors to discuss and discourage putting trash, wash water, grease, or other pollution into storm drains. Anything that goes into storm drains does not get treated in this watershed eventually washes into Little Lick Creek. Residents can also call the Stormwater Hotline (919-560-SWIM) to report water pollution.


The health and cleanliness of the watershed are reported in Durham’s annual State of Our Streams Report. In years when staff is able to take a wide variety of tests, the watershed is also given a score. Little Lick Creek was last given a score of 68 in 2022. This compares to a "D" letter grade. This is down from 71 in 2021. This score was due to:

  • Poor bacteria levels
  • Fair nutrient levels
  • Fair turbidity levels
  • Fair aquatic life 

These water quality concerns keep Little Lick Creek from its intended uses by people and wildlife. The State added the creek to a list of impaired water bodies, also known as the 303(d) list. This means the city takes extra steps to find and reduce sources of pollution in the creek.

Water Quality Investigations

Stormwater Services staff investigates water pollution reported by other city employees and Durham residents. In the 2022 reporting year, staff found pollution sources in 9 investigations. This is a list of the pollution sources our team found based on investigations and stormwater hotline (919-560-7946) tips. The top sources of pollution identified within the city in 2022 were: 

  • private sanitary sewer spills
  • city sanitary sewer spills
  • erosion and sediment discharges
  • cooking grease spills
  • illicit connection

See past summaries:

Watershed Improvement Plan

The Public Works Department is working on the  Little Lick Creek Watershed Improvement Plan. The City has contracted with Wildlands Engineering to work with the City's Stormwater and GIS Division to prepare an engineering study and assessment of the Little Lick Creek watershed.

Stream Bank Plantings

This project involved planting more than 200 trees and shrubs along river banks in the Lick and Little Lick Creek watersheds. Plants along stream edges help keep banks stable. They naturally filter pollution out of the water running into the stream. Trees shade creeks and keep them from getting too warm and provide important habitat. Plants along the water’s edge are known as buffers. Learn more about how to improve buffers on the N.C. Clean Water Education Partnership website. Funding for the project was provided by a grant from the Home Depot Foundation via the Center for Watershed Protection. The Upper Neuse River Basin Association coordinated the project and the city provided mulch and planting tools. Volunteers from Duke and the community helped with the plantings.